Beyond four walls : live and learn
Experiences alone do not automatically lead to good learning but they do generate authentic and enjoyable learning. The distinction and the merits of experiential versus didactic education have been vigorously debated. The author does not enter this debate but his training and experience as an outdoor educators have demonstrated the value of experiential education and the role of such experiences in stimulating multiple senses and generating authentic learning. The need to balance risk and avoid unnecessary intervention allow two of the identified benefits of experiential education to be realised. The first is 'chaos and crisis in a safe environment' and the second is to 'encourage risk taking.' In an increasingly risk-averse society that attempts to control the environment, that inhibits play and seeks to regulate experience, these benefits are enormous. Improved health and the future minimisation of serious or catastrophic risk-taking behaviour are two such advantages being increasingly documented. Two other significant opportunities are provided by experiential education. The first is the potential to re-culture students' perception of schooling. Some students are chronically unmotivated by the school experience and a significant part of this is due to the lack of real-world relevance that theory-based learning offers. To re-engage students in the process of learning and for them to enjoy the stimulation of enquiry and discovery is a worthy outcome. The second opportunity is to strengthen the relationship between students and staff. If teachers insist on the role of 'expert communicator' of knowledge, the student necessarily becomes the recipient. The relationship is one of transmission rather than connection. One of the great benefits of outdoor education is that students and staff are able to foster new relationships that are founded on shared experience, mutual learning and joint discovery. [Author abstract, ed]
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